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Sounds of silence

Where Man and Nature live in harmony, writes Subha J Rao



VISUAL TREAT Kinnakorai PHOTO: Subha J Rao

It's a place where the climate changes like your mood. Kinnakorai, situated at the tip of the Nilgiris, on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, is inhabited by a few scoreBadaga families that still believe in old-world hospitality.

When we ask for directions at the Manjur bus stand, a local thalaivar comes to our aid and soon two Badaga men accompany us on the hour-and-a-half drive. At Carrington Estate, the tea plantations stretch as far as the eye can see. The rays of the sun cut a swathe across the middle of the deep green-grey valley part of which belongs to Kerala. As you walk down the quiet Carrington Road en route to Kinnakorai, even the sound of twigs snapping under your feet gets magnified. Nearby is the Thiashola tea estate, which grows organic tea. Carrington and Thiashola are the oldest tea plantations in the Nilgiris.

Tea gardens

Till 50 years ago, Kinnakorai was known only for its coffee gardens. But falling prices saw the locals switch to tea cultivation, which has proved more profitable. From the tea gardens, situated at an altitude of 6,000 ft above sea level, you can see the Geddai power station, the winch route and the narrow, winding road. You can also spot Kolathurai, Attapadi and Anaikatti.

Badaga village

After stopping by at the tea plantations, make it a point to visit at least one Badaga village. We choose Melur — a village where the tradition and modernity have struck a truce. The children go down to the plains to study while the elders continue life at their own pace.

The people are so friendly that they don't mind you gawking at their traditional attire. Known for their hospitality, they ensure that you never leave without sharing a meal with them.

At the entrance to Melur is a semi-circular bench-like stone structure. This is where the village headman presides over meetings. A hole in the middle serves as a fireplace. Nearby, a grid for a game of dice has been chiselled in stone. This and the image of a tiger were carved in 1882, as indicated by the artist's signature on a stone nearby. The locals believe that anyone who is sick will be cured if they show the affected part to the image, first thing in the morning! The road leading to Kinnakorai is an example of harmonious co-existence between Man and Nature. The forest is so well preserved that tigers and panthers don't mind taking a stroll even in the middle of the day. The locals don't panic and merely wait for the original inhabitants to move on. That the people here love Nature is evident in the way they look after their surroundings.

How to get there

Drive up to Manjur, 88 km from Coimbatore. From there, it is a 35-km drive to Kinnakorai. There are no hotels around. But, the place is perfect for a day's outing.

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